The 144-foot Emerald Star is the latest in semi-custom yachts from Marquis. (Photo copyright/courtesy Kim Kavin.)

The 144-foot Emerald Star is the latest in semi-custom yachts from Marquis. (Photo copyright/courtesy Kim Kavin.)



Production boats are for newbies. They're all alike.

Custom yachts are for suckers. They're overpriced.

Everybody who is anybody is buying semi-custom.

At least that will be the message during this month's Miami International Boat Show, where builders will tout semi-custom yachts of all sizes. Two of the stars will no doubt be the Marquis 70 Tri-Deck and the CRN 43-meter (141-foot) Emerald Star, each the first hulls in their respective semi-custom series.

They're flying out of the shipyards, according to the folks who build them. When I got aboard the 20.9-million-euro Emerald Star two months ago, her captain said CRN had sold 10 sisterships before she even left the yard in Italy. And when I chatted this week with Dick Nocenti, marketing director at Wisconsin-based Marquis, he said semi-custom demand was so strong that he'll not only be unveiling the 70 Tri-Deck this month, but also plans for an 88 Marquis coming in 2010. (Unfortunately, at press time he could not "unveil" the price.)

"Someday," he added, "it wouldn't surprise me to be talking to you about a 100-foot Marquis. The market is going this way."

Indeed. Westport Shipyards continues to turn out its 164 series to oohs and aahs. Christensen Shipyards is sold out on its 157 series through 2011. Amels is building 171-foot semi-customs at a rate never before seen.

And as demand surges, features are improving. CRN's Emerald Star has a private deck off the master suite, a gym that opens onto the swim platform, and a hydraulic tender garage built into her bow. The Marquis 70 Tri-Deck, I'm told, will have an enclosed pilothouse with air conditioning, inlaid carpeting, and a hibachi grill.

It used to be that yards pushed semi-custom designs because you could get them your way, but faster than custom launches. Now that there is a multiyear waiting list for semi-customs, the models are being touted as, simply, the best option for your money.

As the competition and features increase, that just may end up being true.

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